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Technology Versus The Right Technology: It’s Not What You Do, It’s How You Do It
Organizations often have the right idea when they opt for digital transformation. Where they falter is in the thinking behind the tech and in turn, the implementation.
George Westerman, principal scientist at the MIT Sloan Initiative on the Digital Economy, once famously said: “When digital transformation is done right, it’s like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. When it’s done wrong, all you have is a really fast caterpillar.” And sometimes, not even that! In the 15 years that we have been working with clients, this is a problem we’ve been asked to solve time and again.
Our clients — from across industries and geographies — have identified the value of digital transformation and worked with others to bring ‘digital’ into their organization. Sometimes for process improvements, sometimes for data collection and analytics, and always with a business goal like enhanced customer experience, better ROI or improved profitability.
But in a disturbing number of cases, they are left underwhelmed by the experience and the results. According to this 2018 McKinsey report, only 16% of organizations surveyed believe that their digital transformation has actually improved their performance. An additional 7% say that performance has improved but this trend does not look sustainable.
Why Is Success So Elusive?
There can be a number of factors responsible. Here are the most common ones we’ve observed.
#1 The Tech Does Not Enable the Business’ Goals
One of the biggest problems is that the technology, while it transforms some aspects of a company’s operation or experience, it does not fulfil important business objectives. This can happen for multiple reasons.
The organization takes an exploratory approach to the tech transformation without fully clarifying or articulating its goals. The goals are articulated but because of a communication gap, the external tech providers do not fully understand them. The tech solution being developed is not sufficient to meet these goals because of a lack of know-how or communication between client and vendor.
We’ll take the example of a Texas-based commercial coatings company that has 600+ employees and hundreds of subcontractors clocking over 1.3 million man-hours per year. On paper, the organization was already digital because they had a system for the filling of timesheets.
However, this legacy system was no match for their ambitious business goals. For one, employees had to manually enter their information into the system every week. The system did not support even this for the subcontractors, whose timesheets had to be tracked with pen and paper only.
So, the ‘human’ element, with all of its drawbacks, was not eliminated from the process and the digitization was only partial. More importantly, the system lacked data validation capabilities; it could not detect invalid timesheet entries, in turn requiring more manual intervention.
#2 Systems Don’t Talk To Each Other
Organizations use multiple systems to run different operations in different functions — for example, a CRM, payroll and facilities management system, accounting and billing software, and so on. For data to flow seamlessly through the organization and be available to view and analyze by business intelligence teams, these systems need to integrate backwards and forwards. Wherever free flow of data is obstructed, problems arise. Owing to their scale, mid-sized and larger organizations find this a bigger problem.
At the aforementioned company, the trouble was that the timesheet information was recorded by the legacy system but not automatically sent to the company’s payroll system and synced against employee profiles. This had to be done through a manual download and upload, making the processing time consuming, inefficient, and prone to delay.
#3 Poor Understanding of User Needs
For the adoption of any technology to be successful, the interests of all relevant stakeholders and users must be represented in the development process, from goal setting to feature discussions and pilots. When this does not happen or not enough testing is conducted on the ground, the chances of failure become much higher.
The timesheet software used by the organization posed multiple issues for its users. The web application could not be used across different devices. The mobile application did not have offline capabilities, which resulted in employees having to do reviews, edits and audits over the telephone with the foreman. This also rendered the technology unscalable.
#4 Poor Feature Set And Execution
Sometimes it is simply that no matter how clear the communication or understanding between the organization and the technology provider, SLAs are not met, and the client ends up with technology that does not meet their needs. This happened to one of Impiger’s clients.
They asked us to do a complete audit of their existing system and we discovered that the application took several minutes to open, loading a timesheet took 3.9 seconds and filling a timesheet report took 19.25 seconds. In addition, the facial recognition system was often inaccurate, causing further delays.
The solution we implemented addressed all of these issues. Moreover, it was agile, scalable and user-friendly with such nifty features as automated regular time and overtime calculations, push notifications to users, daily time logs with pictures and location information on the mobile app, and so on.
Setting Up Tech for Success
When you are setting out to use technology to solve a business problem, how do you ensure that you get a solution that’s on point?
First, get internal clarity and leadership buy-in on the goals you want to achieve with this tech. Ensure that all relevant stakeholders are involved in this goal-setting process. This must be done before you send out RFPs to technology providers.
In your RFPs, be just as clear about your objectives and deliverables. If too-broad, specs may cause unnecessary delays and confusion. Also, be open about sharing the larger business goals — a good tech partner should also be able to advise you on the right solution and implementation plan if they understand your goals.
Someone who has relevant experience and is confident of their work should have no problem supplying you with these details. If you get a boilerplate response to your RFP, do think twice. Ideally you want someone who is enthusiastic and interested in the project as much for their business as for yours.
Most importantly, be involved in projects right from the start. Do your own background study and research on how the tech is going to be created and implemented. Ask questions, seek clarity, communicate regularly and set such expectations with the vendor so that at any point if things are going off-track, you will know right away.
At Eleviant, we have been helping customers with digital transformation projects involving Mobile, Cloud, Web, IoT, AR, RPA and AI Technologies and we are proud of our 90% customer retention number over 17 years.